How to Help a Loved One During Addiction Treatment
Seeking treatment for substance addiction is a decision that requires great strength, courage and vulnerability. Oftentimes, by the time someone has gotten to the point of reaching out for help, they feel their addiction has gone too far. It is also likely that you have noticed your friend or family member suffering throughout their substance abuse, but you didn’t know how to help. Everyone’s addiction treatment looks a little different, but an important universal truth is that the treatment process is infinitely easier when someone doesn’t have to go through it alone.
From day one of addiction treatment, a strong support network can help your loved one know what to expect throughout the entire journey. Knowing that they can call someone when going through the worst of their treatment can be more comforting than one would imagine. Whether your parent, aunt, uncle or close friend is deciding to begin treatment for their addiction, there are steps you can take to encourage them through it without having to be a healthcare professional or addiction specialist.
As simple as it sounds: just be there for them
During this period in your loved one’s life, they need to know that they have someone they can turn to when their addiction treatment gets tough. You are likely not a qualified professional and may not feel equipped to handle the more difficult aspects that come along with addiction – that is okay.
Being there for your friend can be as simple as staying in with them for a movie night, rather than going to a party with a group. It can mean staying up late to text your cousin, even if you would rather go to bed, because they need to share their thoughts with you. It can mean ordering water instead of a cocktail when you go out to dinner together. Sometimes you won’t know what to say, or you might feel awkward because you can’t relate – that is okay. Being a safe place for your friend to turn to can help them find support in more healthy channels.
Learn the basics of medication management
For some types of substances – including alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines – it is critically important to wean oneself off of the substance rather than quitting cold turkey. To the layperson, it may seem counterproductive for your loved one to continue taking the substance they are seeking treatment for, but abruptly reducing the dosage that their body is accustomed to can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal, for example, can lead to insomnia, hallucinations, delusions and grand mal seizures. Some choose to experience the tapering and potential withdrawals in a hospital or an inpatient facility, but it is also possible to manage medications home if their healthcare provider feels comfortable with that approach. If you are living with a friend or family member in treatment for addiction, you will be in a position to help wean them off of their substance by adhering to a specific schedule. Don’t be discouraged, however, if the process is slower than you might expect. A wean or taper schedule could take several weeks to get the dosage down to zero, reducing in small increments at a time to reduce the chance of severe withdrawal symptoms. Work closely with a healthcare professional to define an appropriate taper schedule, but learn how to administer medication to your loved one at home to stay on track.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge setbacks
Addiction treatment is not a linear journey. Some days will be better than others, and addiction unfortunately does not disappear overnight. Refrain from criticizing your loved one if you learn they have abused a substance during their treatment. Rather, face the situation head-on and ask questions that might better serve their treatment: Is something about this treatment not working for you? Are you interested in trying a different kind of treatment, either now or down the road? How were you feeling before you used substances? How do you feel afterwards?
Addiction, and even addiction treatment, is stigmatized enough in our society. If your loved one is made to feel shamed over any setbacks they might experience during their treatment, it may cause them to retreat from sharing anything, or even lose faith in treatment entirely. Let your friend or family member know that they can come to you at any time, even if they slip up.
But always celebrate successes!
Again – addiction treatment is not a linear journey, but it is a deeply reflective and personal one. What might seem like a small step to you could be a huge milestone to your loved one. If your friend is struggling with alcoholism, but has just gone their first day without a single drink, congratulate them! If a parent has decided to attend their first group support session, ask if you can come along to hold their hand as they tell their story. The choice to seek treatment is a win in its own right, but it does require constant nurturing to be effective in the long run. Cheering your loved one on will make the treatment process that much more important to them, and will serve as a reminder that they are not alone.
How to get addiction treatment help for your loved one
If you have a friend or family member who is ready to begin treatment for their substance addiction, visit Freedom Detox today or give us a call at (800) 475-2312 for more information today.